You might recall that chest pain and trouble breathing is what brought me to Abington Hospital on Sunday, December 20, 2020. I was diagnosed with COVID and was admitted to the hospital for six days through Christmas until my discharge on December 26, 2020. During my hospitalization, my cardiologist told me that once I recovered from COVID, we needed to find out why I experienced chest pain. COVID was obviously stressing my heart, but my cardiologist was concerned about my underlying heart conditions. I have an 8 year old artificial aortic valve and coronary artery disease with a total of 7 stents. Since the end of January, I made two additional trips to the hospital with one five-day admission and a bunch of diagnostic tests. The results are all in. Yesterday, I saw a cardiothoracic surgeon at Abington Hospital. My artificial aortic valve is wearing out prematurely and will need to be replaced through open heart surgery. The less invasive TAVR procedure is unfortunately not an option for me. My surgeon is also going to try to enlarge the area of the aorta in which my artificial valve is placed in order to give me a larger aortic valve which would improve blood flow. In addition, since my stents will not last forever (two in fact are completely closed in one artery), my surgeon is going to try to do up to three coronary artery bypasses. He won’t know how many he can do until he actually sees my heart. I would certainly appreciate your prayers. This is a big surgery that is quite a bit more complicated and difficult than the open heart surgery I had 8 years ago to replace my aortic valve. But I am resting in the truths of Psalm 121 – the Lord is my help and sure hope.
As it stands now, my surgery will be on Wednesday, May 12th. I should be in the hospital for about 6 days and convalescing at home for the better part of 3 months. I want to thank you in advance for your prayers and your ongoing financial support of the Whosoever Gospel Mission. The Mission is in good hands with the Lord and with my dedicated staff. As our Associate Executive Director, Dr. Heather L. Rice, who has served in various capacities at the Mission since 1993, will be directing the Mission in my absence. In fact, Heather has been appointed as my successor when I retire from full-time ministry at the Mission in about two years (she has already offered me a part-time job writing grant applications to private foundations!). I have enjoyed watching Heather grow up serving the Lord at the Mission from a young 13 year old freshman in Central High School into an extremely gifted and highly qualified godly woman. By God’s grace, the Mission is in excellent shape with Heather at the helm
January and February of 2020 were good months at the Mission. We were rejoicing in all of the special activities and events our men were able to enjoy during the 2019 Christmas holidays. Our annual thank you letter in February included a “save the date” notice for our annual Night of Celebration which is usually held in April. And then COVID hit. I remember when we were required to close our two thrift stores as nonessential businesses. Our ministry to homeless men was viewed as an essential business, and we stayed open. But we had to lay off 6 staff members, and over the next several months we lost over $150,000.00 in thrift store income. With our 55-beds for homeless men, we worked hard to keep COVID-19 out of the Mission. We implemented all sorts of policies and procedures to keep our residents and staff as safe as possible. While many non-profits and businesses were able to keep their staff safe by closing down and working virtually from home, this was impossible for us to do as a long-term residential program for homeless men. Our staff members were and still are wonderful – none of them complained about risking their health and 100% of our staff showed up for work every day. By the very nature of our ministry, our staff and residents mixed and mingled together. We were careful and all wore masks and practiced social distancing, but the very nature of our ministry requires in-person interactions. By God’s grace, COVID-19 stayed out of the Mission for 8 months, and then in late November, COVID got into the Mission. We experienced our own mini-epidemic in December. Six residents and six staff came down with COVID. I ended up in the hospital for six days over Christmas. But through it all, the Mission stayed open, and our ministry to broken and hurting homeless men continued without interruption.
I do not have enough words to thank each of you for standing with us in 2020 and doing so much to support us and to keep us going. Some days we were “limping” along, but through your fervent prayers, your generous financial support, and your abundant donations of food, cleaning supplies, masks, and everything else we needed to fulfill our ministry, our doors are still open, we are still loving our men with the love of Christ, and broken and hurting people are tasting the goodness of the Lord. Thank you for all that you did for us in 2020!
Here at the Mission, we’ve had a different holiday season than we anticipated! Five residents and six staff members all contracted COVID in December. The Lord has very mercifully been teaching us that when we are weak, then He is strong! We are happy to report good news all around.
Executive director Bob Emberger was among the sick and was hospitalized for 6 days of treatment. He has responded well and is back to the Mission as he continues to build up his stamina.
The other staff who had been infected are all doing well and are either officially back to work or scheduled to be so within a week. All of our sick residents have recovered and as of today, we have no known COVID cases onsite! All tremendous answers to prayer!!!
Now, we can look to rescheduling our special Christmas lunch and give out the rest of the wonderful gifts everyone collected for our residents! Stay tuned for photos of our delayed Christmas festivities (safely distanced, of course!) in the next couple of weeks. We think we’ll leave our trees up in the chapel and lobby until then!
I love Christmas! I love the cookies, the decorations, the glorious Christmas carols (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is my favorite!), the fun and festive music of the season (Deck the Halls!), the sparkling lights, special gatherings with friends and family, my children and grandchildren traveling from all over the country back home to Philadelphia to celebrate Christmas with my wife and me, special chapels and dinners at the Mission provided by visiting churches, the giving and receiving of gifts, special church services packed with people, and of course my favorite Christmas movies – the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is by far my favorite (I have about 12 versions of it including the Muppet Christmas Carol!). I especially love preaching at Christmas. I never get tired of the Christmas story, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11).
Because of COVID-19, in so many ways this Christmas will be quite a bit different from other Christmases. There will be smaller and even canceled church services, none of my children or grandchildren traveling from afar to come home for Christmas, no special gatherings with friends and family, no special chapels and dinners at the Mission provided by visiting churches, and no hearty singing of Christmas carols in the Mission’s chapels. I will miss these things, but I still rejoice that the heart of Christmas remains the same even during a pandemic: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” A virus may be able to take away many of the external trappings of Christmas – large church services, special gatherings and fun festivities with friends and family – but it cannot take away what Christmas is truly all about – “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” May you and yours experience the joy and wonder of Christmas 2020. With the pandemic surging around the country, the angel’s words to the shepherds carry extra weight and hope, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people…” (Luke 2:10). And in spite of the pandemic, I am still going to eat some Christmas cookies, watch the Christmas Carol, and joyfully sing in my own house, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!”
As we quickly move toward the end of 2020, please consider making a special gift to the Mission so that we can give our men the joy and hope of Christmas each and every day throughout the coming New Year. Here are several great ways you can help:
Give a generous year-end gift of cash. God will use your gift to impact and change lives.
Some families bless our men by pooling their money and giving a special Christmas gift to the Mission from their family (individual receipts for each donor can still be given).
If God has especially blessed you this past year, please consider sending a larger than usual gift to the Mission. Large gifts take big bites out of our budgeted expenses. They also strengthen and expand our compassionate services to our men. Your gift will be used to make life-giving, life-changing, and life-saving differences in the lives of our men.
Give the Mission a gift of appreciated stock. A gift of appreciated stock is always a great help and can also provide you with some excellent tax benefits, especially if you transfer the stock directly to the Mission rather than first selling it. Please consult with your financial advisor to confirm these tax benefits. We can easily arrange for an electronic transfer of your stock. Please call me at 215 438 3094 (ext 102).
If you have a donor-advised fund, you can recommend that a grant be made to the Whosoever Gospel Mission. Your grant will bless our men in many ways.
You can make up to a $100,000 Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) to the Mission instead of taking your required minimum distribution (RMD). Your distribution must be sent by your IRA custodian directly to the Mission. The effect in most situations is both an income tax savings and an increased gift. Please consult with your financial advisor.
Save postage and time – you can go to our Whosoever Gospel Mission website to make an online donation. You can also set up a monthly recurring donation for 2021.
Make your online purchases through AmazonSmile which is run by Amazon.com as a unique way to support charities. You will get the same service, same merchandise, and the same prices. Register with AmazonSmile and designate the Whosoever Gospel Mission to receive a percentage of all the eligible purchases you make on AmazonSmile. You can search for the Mission on AmazonSmile, or you can type in the following link: http://smile.amazon.com/ch/23-1352579. You won’t pay any more for your purchases, but you will be helping the Whosoever Gospel Mission.
Make a gift to the Mission through PayPal Giving Fund. Search “Donate with PayPal Giving Fund” or go to PayPal Giving Fund’s website: www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/huband search “Whosoever Gospel Mission.” We get the full value of your donation – PayPal doesn’t charge us any fees.
Christmas will be here and gone before we know it. But through your kind and generous support, the peace, hope and joy of Christmas will continue throughout the New Year in the lives of our men. Jesus is the reason for the season, but He is also our hope and joy for the rest of the year. Our men truly do thank you for your kind and generous support.
As we finish out 2020 and begin 2021, my prayer for you is that the Lord will abundantly bless you and your loved ones with good health, much happiness and great success in all of your endeavors. COVID-19 made 2020 a very hard and challenging year for the Mission. Thank you for standing with us. Your generous support kept the Mission alive and was used by the Lord to bless the 184 broken and hurting homeless men who lived at the Mission in 2020. Your gift also blessed their families, their friends and society as a whole as our men became responsible, contributing members of our community.
Because of COVID-19, our Thanksgiving Day celebration is going to be quite a bit different this year. We normally have a big crowd of 130-140 people – our residents, volunteers, friends of the Mission, New Life Program graduates, staff members, and family members of our staff and residents. I have celebrated 31 Thanksgivings at the Mission, and it is always one of the highlights of my year. When my four kids were still living at home, our Thanksgiving Day dinner was always at the Mission. But this year, in order to protect our residents from COVID-19 possibly being brought unknowingly into the Mission by an asymptomatic visitor, we are going to limit our Thanksgiving Day celebration to just our 55 residents and a few staff. A good number of our residents are medically vulnerable – they would probably die if they caught COVID-19. So the most loving thing we can do is to be extra, extra careful for their sake.
But we are still going to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving Day feast fit for a King (the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!). Our Thanksgiving Day feast includes roasted turkey, homemade gravy, seven-cheese macaroni (which I make every year), creamy mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, savory stuffing with cranberries (which I also make from scratch every year), green beans almondine, buttered corn, rolls & butter, cranberry sauce, apple cider, and an amazing assortment of desserts – pies, cookies, brownies, cheesecake, and candy.
With the relentless COVID-19 pandemic and all of the turmoil and trouble in our country, we work hard every day to make the Mission a safe haven and a peaceable refuge for all of our men. Recently in one of our Overcomers meetings (i.e., our drug and alcohol support groups), one of our residents shared his testimony. He thanked the Lord for the peace and quiet of the Mission in contrast to “the craziness that is going on out there in the streets.”
Thank you for your support which makes it possible for our men to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving Day feast in a safe and peaceable home. And because of your support, the Mission is a refuge and safe haven from the “craziness of the streets” not just on Thanksgiving Day, but 365 days a year. As we celebrate Thanksgiving 2020, we give thanks to the Lord for you as a friend and for your kind and generous support. Please pray and give generously. Every gift counts and will be used to bless, encourage, equip and help our men move forward in life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrown a few curve balls at the Mission. But we are still open, and we are still providing, without interruption or cutbacks, on-site housing and help for up to 55 broken and hurting homeless men on any given day. We are deeply grateful for your much needed financial support. But at this time of year, there are additional ways you can support us. The enclosed handout highlights a few of those ways that will make a wonderful difference in the lives of our men. The fall also marks the beginning of workplace giving campaigns. Many companies and government agencies ask their employees to contribute to their workplace giving campaigns. The happy news is that through your workplace giving campaign, you can designate your gift to the Whosoever Gospel Mission.
The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey – donate to the Mission through United Way’s Donor Choice Option. Our Code Number is 1045.
The Combined Federal Campaign – federal employees can choose the Mission to receive their gift through the CFC. Our Code Number is 69784
The City of Philadelphia Employees’ Combined Campaign – the Whosoever Gospel Mission is listed in the Contributor’s Guide under the category: Independent Charities Vetted by America’s Charities. Our Code Number is 30-0047.
United Campaigns in other states and regions – you can still designate your gift to the Whosoever Gospel Mission even if you live and work in another state or region of the country. Check your campaign booklet or ask your workplace United Way coordinator.
America’s Charities, Network for Good, and the Benevity Community Impact Fund provide administrative services for several workplace giving campaigns throughout the country – check with your company’s workplace giving coordinator to find out how you can designate your gift to the Mission if your workplace uses one of these organizations to conduct their giving campaign.
Matching Gift Programs – many companies will match their employees’ gifts to a non-profit dollar for dollar. Check with your employer to see if they have a Matching Gift Program. You can double your gift to the Mission at no additional cost to you.
Your gifts are being used every day by the Lord to change lives! Thanks so much!
Thank you. as we quickly move toward the end of our fiscal year on September 30th, the most important thing I can say is thank you. Please accept my heartfelt thanks for –
Above all, for your prayers (no one has gotten sick at the Mission from COVID-19!).
For standing with us during the good times and the not so good times such as now.
For your extra generous gifts when we had to close both of our thrift stores in March under Governor Wolf’s orders (losing over $150,000 from March until now). Your financial gifts kept us afloat.
For your patience in waiting for my thank you letters and receipts. I really fell behind because of the extra challenges brought on by the pandemic – my days get filled up so quickly with more to do than time to do it. Though my thank you letters are very belated, my gratitude is still very real and present. I don’t have enough words to thank you.
For holding onto your donations for our thrift stores until our stores reopened. We thank the Lord that on June 19th our Germantown Thrift Store reopened, and by the time you read this newsletter, our Lighthouse Thrift Shop will have reopened on September 4th.
For sending non-perishable food, supermarket gifts cards, fresh produce, special meals for our men and other food items to us. The huge amount of food we used to get from the Philabundance Food Bank was reduced to a trickle. Your food donations really helped.
For encouraging notes, cards, phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook postings sent our way. You are a friend that sticks closer than a brother or sister.
I really love this photo of the Whosoever Gospel Mission’s first location in Germantown. It used to be a bar that our founder, William Raws, used to go and get drunk in during his previous life as a homeless alcoholic from England. But then the Lord got hold of his life and placed in his heart an unstoppable desire to open the Whosoever Gospel Mission.
In our 128 year history, we have been through a lot – most recently our catastrophic arson fire of 2006 and now the COVID-19 pandemic. I have served at the Mission for 31 years, and I am confident that the Lord will bring us through this pandemic through dear friends such as you.
We have an amazing and dedicated staff here at the Whosoever Gospel Mission. Every day without fail our staff members show up at the Mission ready to serve the Lord by serving our men. Each staff member shows up with dedication, enthusiasm and joy for the work that the Lord has given us to do. When you think about the Mission and COVID-19, our story is pretty remarkable. We have been operating at our 55-bed capacity during the whole pandemic. We have a staff of 21 which sadly was cut to 15 because of the closure of our two thrift stores. Thankfully we have called back all of our full-time staff with the exception of one staff member who is looking to retire. On any given day during the entire pandemic, our staff members were and continue to be fearless. With 55 residents and 15 staff members, we have about 70 people living and working at the Mission. Humanly speaking, the probability of the coronavirus making its way into the Mission was and is rather high. We did everything we could to keep the virus out and to protect our residents and staff, but at times we felt like we were fighting a forest fire with a garden hose. We realized that ultimately God was the only one who could protect the Mission and keep us all safe. And the Lord has in fact done so! As of the date of this letter (I am writing this letter on July 1st), we have not had one case of COVID-19 in the Mission. Our residents and staff have all stayed healthy. We thank God for His amazing grace and mercy.
And through it all, our staff never complained. They never hesitated to come to work and risk their health and possibly even their lives. Our staff understood that we are essential workers and that the Mission is an essential life-giving ministry permitted by the government to stay open. But above all, our staff understood that our ministry is a ministry close to the heart of God. Our staff did not call out sick or suggest we stop taking in new homeless men, nor did they ever suggest that perhaps we should close down the Mission until the COVID-19 pandemic passes. Our staff understood that a ministry such as ours cannot be done by staying home, or by doing our ministry virtually online. Our ministry must by necessity be done face-to-face – ministering the love of Christ to our residents in person – meaning we daily become the hands and feet of Jesus to our men in practical, compassionate and tangible ways.
Thank you for your kind and generous support. You are our critical supply lines, prayer intercessors, and cheerleaders. We cannot do what we do without your continued support.
Because of your kind and generous support, our ministry to homeless men is going strong in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to operate at our 55-bed capacity, we continue to serve three delicious and nutritious meals a day, our Overcomers drug and alcohol meetings are held twice a week, all of our men have a scheduled counseling session at least once a week, tutoring and classes are still conducted with face masks and social distancing, we still have chapel services (although we have divided our men into smaller groups so our men can spread out in chapel and maintain social distancing), seven of our men are employed, and best of all, as of the date of this letter, not one resident or staff member has gotten sick with COVID-19. Our residents and staff are working hard to keep COVID-19 out of the Mission, and by God’s grace and mercy, everyone has stayed healthy. Please continue to pray with us that we get through this pandemic without one case of COVID-19 in the Mission.
I have so much to thank you for during these challenging and difficult days. You have been a friend that sticks closer than a sister or brother. Thank you for your financial support, for your prayers, for masks that you made for our residents and staff, for food donations, for donations of retail gift cards, for encouraging emails, cards, texts and Facebook postings; for donations of paper products and cleaning supplies, for special dinners purchased for our men from a Germantown pizzeria, for holding onto your thrift store donations until we are permitted to reopen our two stores, for sending additional financial gifts to the Mission to make sure we can pay our bills, for making up Blessing Bags filled with treats for our men, and for letting us know in so many ways that you are with us and for us – that we are not facing this pandemic alone. The Lord promises to never leave us or forsake us. I think one of the ways that God fulfills that promise is through friends such as you who stand with us during such a trying time as this.
I especially want to thank you for your patience in receiving our thank you letters and receipts for your gifts. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, everything takes longer to do – nothing is easy. And every day is filled with unexpected challenges. There is many a night that I am still awake in the wee hours of the morning weighed down with concerns over the present and future welfare of the Mission. And thankfully, the Lord gently reminds me to cast my burdens upon Him – His shoulders are bigger than mine. I thank the Lord for that truth! Thank you for helping us to “keep on keeping on.” We are pressing on to better days. Please find enclosed a wonderfully creative photo from one of our residents that is all about joy!
Working together with you,
Robert A. Emberger, D.Min. Executive Director
Please check out this wonderfully creative photo from one of our residents that is all about joy!
The official registration and financial information of the Whosoever Gospel Mission and Rescue Home Association may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1 (800) 732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.